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Published: September 23rd 2012
Another late start - breakfast at 9am. The breakfast was similar to previous days, instead of conserve we had a really thick tasty honey. We had ordered a tomato omelette which was actually more like a soup with more tomato than egg - very unusual.
Saro was still having battery trouble but managed to jump start the jeep again. He ordered a battery from Yerevan that is making its way to Ijevan by taxi, together with his wife. Our first visit was to Akhtala further down the gorge on the way towards the Georgian border. It is a very large cathedral - not the most attractive on the outside but amazing frescos on the inside. They are raising money to renovate the dome. There are secret passages in the church - Saro kept appearing at various points where there are gaps in the church walls including high up in the dome. Rather him than me.
Saro was also keen to try and see a house close by that is owned by an Armenian oligarch. We found the road which took us to a high plateau. At the top we could see a high spire surrounded by poplar trees and a security gate with ENTRY FORBIDDEN written on it. This didn't not put Saro off as he cheekily asked if we could go in to look around. Amazingly, they tried to get in touch with the owner to ask! I unfortunately they couldn't get hold of him but said that next time, to phone ahead. I expect Saro will get through those gates eventually.
We then had quite a long drive to our next destination, Makaravank monastery. We left Lori and moved into Tavush province. On the way we stopped at a roadside stall and bought walnuts, figs and raspberries. The scenery changes from very dramatic gorges to rolling hills covered in trees. At one point we came quite close to the Azerbaijain border, so close Rod got a message from Orange telling him how much it would cost to phone from there.
At Maravank the highlight was seeing a woodpecker. We could hear it in the trees and when Saro tapped a tree with a stone, it flew over. Rod learnt this handy trick from Springwatch or some similar programme. There were women saying prayers and singing in the church. We weren't sure who or what they were saying their prayers for. There are hundreds of walnut trees around the area and the locals had been collecting them and breaking them with a stone on a rock which proved to be very useful when we had to break our walnuts - crushing them in our hands, like the locals, just didn't seem to work.
By the time we got to Ijevan, it was getting quite late. One of Saro's friends, Hovo, joined us. It was a massive banquet with my favourite - Armenian pickles. It was perfect with with the Vermicelli pilaf - everything was tasty, as ever.
After lunch we drove to Ijevan centre and had a walk around the park looking at all the statues there. We gradually seemed to collect a gaggle of Saro's friends as we walked through the town. We then drove back to the hotel to wait for Marina who was due to arrive. We intended to back into town to have a beer and maybe something to eat.
Marina arrived with the battery and we all went back down to Ijevan to a cafe with wifi which we had seen earlier. We try to make the most of wifi when we are in range. Still no Kotayk beer so Rod and I tried the Ararat beer which was good. We were so stuffed from a large lunch, all I had was an ice cream. Then it was back to the hotel and a good night's sleep.
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